How to Pronounce Popular Irish Names – Aoife, Cian, Niamh, Oisin

pronounce irish names

Most of the names popular in Ireland today — names like Jack, Sarah, Adam and Emma — are easy to pronounce. But others can be tricky for non-Irish-speakers to decipher. So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s how to pronounce popular Irish names like Aoife, Cian, Niamh and Cillian.

Irish Girl Names:

  • Aoife is pronounced EE-fa.
  • Caoimhe is pronounced KEE-va or KWEE-va.*
  • Ciara is pronounced KEE-ar-a or KEE-ra.*
  • Maeve is pronounced MAYV.
  • Niamh is pronounced NEE-av or NEEV.
  • Saoirse is pronounced SEER-sha or SAIR-sha.
  • Sinead (Sinéad) is pronounced shi-NAYD.

Irish Boy Names:

  • Cian is pronounced KEE-an or KEEN.*
  • Cillian is pronounced KIL-ee-an.*
  • Daithi (Dáithí) is pronounced DAH-hee.
  • Eoin is pronounced O-in.
  • Oisin (Oisín) is pronounced UH-sheen or O-sheen.
  • Seamus (Séamus) is pronounced SHAY-mus.
  • Sean (Seán) is pronounced SHAWN.

*Remember, all C’s are hard in Irish.

Keep in mind that these pronunciations may not cover all dialects of Irish.

What other Irish names do you have a hard time pronouncing?

336 Responses to How to Pronounce Popular Irish Names – Aoife, Cian, Niamh, Oisin

  1. Here’s another one: Siobhan pronounced as SHIYVAO-N

  2. Actually Tommy Siobhan is pronounced Shi-VAWN’ (kinda like “chiffon” but with a “v” instead of the f’s.

  3. aiobhinn pronounced EE-vin

  4. i agree with Rowan on how siobhan is pronounced!!! tommys is kinda complicated!!

  5. Actually Aoife should be pronounced EE-feh. I hate it when people call me EE-fa!!

  6. In high school my best friend was Siobhan, just like chiffon with a soft v. My brother dated an Aine which she pronounced just like the Russian Anya. My daughter Maeve is going to spend her whole life being called Mauve, which drives me crazy. I don’t know if I’m right (I’m American Irish, not Irish-Irish), but I pronounce Maeve with just a hint of a second syllable, kind of like how most americans pronounce fire. Just a bit of y or long-e at the end of the a. More than just “rhymes with cave.”

    And oh how I wanted to use Aoife. Hubby chickened out!

  7. How would you pronounce Sioda

  8. @ Andrea – I’d guess Sioda is pronounced “shee-da.” Looks like it means “silk” in Irish and it’s been used as a baby name at least a couple of times in Ireland. (Both times I saw were for baby boys.)

  9. Please – pronunciation for this name. He is a writer and when I see his name, I have no idea how to say it. Thanks.

    Maidhc Ó Cathail

  10. Maidhc =Mike

  11. Maidhc o Cathail = Mike O Caw-hal

    Cathail is the Irish for Charles

  12. Thanks very much Aoife. Easy when you know how eh!

  13. I’d love to see how a Tadhg would get on in the US!!! Lol!

    Tadhg = Tiger without the “er”.

  14. Lol and tommy siobhan is NOT prounounced SHIYVA-ON its prounounced like Shi-VON!!!
    there was one girl at my school and she kept calling me syo-ban and most ppl in my class spell it like SHIVON and i got an xmas card dat said
    HAPPY CHRISTMAS SHAVVON FROM DEIELLE XX (dee-l)

    lol why cant ppl spell my name these dayz??

  15. siobhan, my cousin is a teacher in scotland and one of her pupils is called siobhan…but when the teachers called her sha-vawn in front of her mum, she said thats not how u pronouce her name its sio-ban……poor child, the mum hd seen the name in a book and assumed it was pronounced that why…..i was so shocked by that, poor wee girl!

  16. How do you pronounce Edin?

  17. A Bevin! My sister is a Bevin. We’ve met a total of 3 in her 28 years…and one of them was a boy.

  18. Hi, Please please change the pronunciation of Oisin from O-sheen to Usheen it drives me insane when people mispronounce my sons name.

  19. @Patrice – Thanks for the suggestion! I’ve added that version. I believe that, in some parts of Ireland, the O-sheen pronunciation is still valid — though it seems a lot less common.

  20. I’m so glad you posted Cian up there correctly. It’s my sons name and every day someone calls him “Sigh-an”. The C is hard people! And who would name their kid “Sigh-an” anyway? but we also get lots of Cain, Sean, and “see-an”.

  21. The pronunciation, please, of Caitlin. I hear everyone using the pronunciation Kate-lin, but read somewhere that the correct pronunciation is Kath-leen. Of course, the first pronunciation with all its variations is so entrenched in this country that it will last for eternity, but I am curious to know whether I am correct.

  22. Rllen-Caitlin is pronounced Kate-lin
    Hope that helped
    Also if anyone can’t pronounce Bethan (Welsh) it is Beth-urn like Bethany without the ‘y’ but it is not short for anything ;]

  23. @Rllen, @Bethan – Caitlin (originally Caitlín) is “kate-lin” in English, but more like “kaht-leen” in Irish. Some sources say the “t” sounds more like a “th” or a “ch,” so the pronunciation probably differs from region to region.

  24. @Maire– Ditto! I have a Cian, and have all the same problems…. :) The hard ‘C’ is so difficult for people for some reason… :)

    I also have a Declan, and am SHOCKED at how many people have problems with it… seems so clear to me, DECK-lun…. We get a lot of DEE-clan, de-CLAN, and various other mispronunciations….

  25. Caena…pronounced kenna

  26. I love all these names but my family is Welsh so my kids are Cerys and Rhys. We get some pretty crazy pronunciations, particularly for Cerys as everyone wants to get away from the hard “C” and pronounce is as “S”. And Rhys is always called Rice. Mind you, my son’s legal first name is Stephen and everyone who sees that (the doctor’s office etc) mispronouces it as step-hen. Very perplexing as I never thought in a million years that “Stephen” would confuse so many.

    My son goes to school with a Diarmuid (love it) and his siblings include Declan, Ciaran and Eoghan. Never sure if I am pronouncing Eoghan (Owen??) properly. There is also a sister called Orla but I think they spell her name Orfhlaith something like that.

  27. I was taught that Oisín (Uh-sheen) and Óisín (Oh-sheen, Oo-sheen) are the two variations of the name, each with their own spelling.

    Could anyone shed some light on the pronunciations of the variants of Naiose and Noisiu … I’ve been told both Neysha and Neese as pronunciations.

    Additionally, are there regional pronunciation differences between Caoilte (K-aw-lt-, Ku-aw-lt-) and Caílte?

  28. Saoirse would be a nice addition. Sear-sh-eh.

  29. Ceridwen is one that I’ve heard mispronounced on kids before (the C is a K sound, not S…which means it’s not SARAH-dwin!!).

    Aislidh is like “Ashley”…just, you know, fyi. :)

  30. @Jamie- My brother’s name is Declan and he always gets called just Deck.. it drives us nuts…

    My sister’s name is Brigid and her nickname is Bridhe, like Bride-y… every calls her Bridgett or Bride…

  31. and how do you pronuonce Sorcha??

  32. @Daniela – I think it depends on the dialect. Many (most?) pronounce it SUR-a-kha, but some pronounce it SUR-a-ha, SUR-kha, and other ways.

  33. Orlite – or-lit. Eoghan – Owen. Niamh – ni-amf. Halri – hay-ley. Mhark – Mark. Sarah/Sahra – sa-rah. Shofie – so-fie. Sara – sa-ra. Orleigh/Órfhlaith/Órlaith – Orla. Keira/Kiera/Ciara/Kiara/Ciere/Ciera – key-ra/cee-ara/cee-ere/cee-era. Brohke – Brooke. Mhary/Máire – Mary. Mhairi/Mairi – ma-ri. Charlotte – shar-lot. Ellise – el-ise. Kian/Cian – Keen. Sean/Shaun – sh-on. Séamus – see-mus. Eibhilín/Eilleen – ay-leen. Aodhán/Aoden/Aiden/Aidan – ay-dan. Katelyn/Caitlin/Kaitlyn/Kaitlin/Caitlyn – kate-lin. Lynne/Lynn/Lin – lin. Ehrin/Erin – er-in. Shannon/Siannon – sha-non. Bairre/Barra/Barry – bar-i. Breandán/Brendan/Brenden – bren-dan. Conchobhar/Conor/Connor – con-or. Diarmuid/Diarmaid – der-mot. Aoibhinn/Aoibheann – ee-van. Osgar – os-car.

    Hope this helps :) x

  34. I think Seamus is pronounced Shay mus, that’s how my family in Ireland pronounces it..

  35. Orfhlaith, quite a few pronounciations there I don’t agree with.

    Niamh = Neeve

    Sean = Shawn (long aww sound)

    Seamus = Shay-mus

  36. i dont know how to pronounce Niam? NOT NiamH just Niam. can you help me atall? ? ?

  37. @beth – “Niam” without the h wouldn’t be an Irish name, so the rules for Irish names wouldn’t apply.

  38. Meryl, people in my family are called those names and that is how they are pronounced. I’m sorry if they aren’t the same as yours but that is my opinion.

  39. Yeah @Bethan’s right, I hate it when teachers call me Beth-Ann IT’S SO ANNOYING!!! :P Then some Americans call me Bee-than or Bee-tan
    Why can’t they jut pronounce it the right way (Beth-n)
    GRRR

  40. Eithne and Maire being pronounced Enya and Moya…is this just another regional variation, or are those pronunciations relatively uncommon?

    Can anyone help me with Ciardha, Siuan, Ailbhe, Cathasaigh/Cathasach, and Faolan?

    Ireland…the only place I’ve ever been where when someone says their name’s “Mary”, you ask “How do you spell that?” before you write it down. To a fair amount of embarassment when it *does* happen to be just spelled Mary and people look at you like you’re not the sharpest crayon in the box…

  41. How do you pronounce Uainionn (also, any idea of the meaning)? Thanks

  42. @Stephanie – I’ve never come across that particular name, and I don’t know what it means, but based on pronunciations I’ve seen for uaithne and various -ionn names, I’d guess…OO-eh-nyon? OO-eh-nyin? Something along those lines, anyway.

  43. I just read a book where a characters name was Colm. At first I thought it was kohlmm, like comb with an L in it. But I kept pronouncing it in my head as Coim (koym). Thoughts?

  44. Dana Mairead Free

    My middle name is Mairead and I pronounce it Ma-rade (like parade with an M) but I have also heard it pronounce May-read and Ma-rid and I know there is one other way it is pronounced but I like my way it sounds softer. This is all in Ireland too not just in the US.
    I love my middle name and wish it was my first name!

  45. I have a friend named Molly Mairead, pronounced Ma-rade. Her sister is Lily Aisling, they both have beautiful names.

  46. @ tara –
    Ciardha – Keira ,
    Siuan = Shoon
    Ailbhe = Al va
    Cathasaigh/Cathasach,- can pronounce but can’t put down in English! sorry!
    Faolan – fay lawn

  47. @Órfhlaith Sorry but Meryl is right. There is no WAY that Seamus should be pronounced ‘Seemis’! Ever!

    Seamus is Irish for James, it’s pronounced Shay-mus, kind of like the Scottish Hamish (Hay-mish).

    Source? My boyfriend is from Co. Cork, and I’m from Edinburgh. Get quite a lot of Seamus’s over here in the Celtic lands ;)

    Also with Niamh and Sean, they are definitely Neeve and Shawn. Sorry, this is not my opinon, this is FACT.

  48. How do you pronounce Sadhbh? Thanks :)

  49. Recently made friends with a Caoilfhionn, which I learned was pronounced kee-lin.

  50. here is another few;

    Siona: Shaw-na or the english version would be Shauna
    Rionagh: Rain-na
    Aine: on-ya
    Daire: Da-ra or Dar-ra
    Niamh: Neeve
    Naomi: Ny-oh-me
    Caitríona: Ka-Tree-Na
    Claire- Clare
    Siobhan- Sha- Vawn( my sisters best friends pronounces it like that!)

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